Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and dates back as far as 5,500 BC. The city is divided into a European side and an Asian side and is connected by the Bosphorus Bridge and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. The Bosphorus connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea.
The city is also divided by the Golden Horn, a natural harbor bounding the peninsula where the former Constantinople and Byzantium were founded. The Bosphorus and Golden Horn is a prominent feature of the city’s landscape.
Istanbul is divided in three by the Bosphorus Strait, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara. The Black Sea forms the northern boundary of the city and most sights are concentrated in the old city on the peninsula of Sultanahmet (west of the Bosphorus).
Istanbul is well-known for its Ottoman and Byzantine architecture, such as the Anadoluhisan, Rumelihisan, Monastery of Stoudios, Church of the Saints Sergius and Bacchus. The Topkapi palace includes architectural styles such as Baroque and Neoclassical.
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Top Attractions in Istanbul
If you are visiting Istanbul you will learn that Beyoğlu is the heart of Istanbul’s nightlife, Sultanahmet is home to most of the city’s famous attractions and Ortakoy is the most beautiful part of the city. Kadikoy is the commercial centre of the Asian side suburbs. You can explore the area around the Bosphorus and book a cheap ferry ride. Feel free to check the Istanbul Ferry website for information on fare, schedules and routes.
Istanbul offers a wealth of traveler destinations and attractions, such as:
• Basilica Cistern: Yerebatan Caddesi 13, Sultanahmet (phone: +90 212 522 1259) – a romantic attraction that offers an insight into the once brought water into Istanbul from the south east Balkans. The upside-down head of Medusa can be seen here.
• Galata Tower: Beyoglu (phone: +90 212 293 8180) – you can enjoy a magnificent view of the city from this tower. You can also walk through the ornate lobby of the Seven Hills hotel in Sultanahmet, and take the lift to the rooftop bar for a great view in Istanbul.
• Aya Sofya: Sultanahmet Square (phone: +90 212 522 0989) –It is an absolute thrill to experience the extraordinary spaciousness of this famous museum. This was once a church, then a mosque and now a museum. The tombs of early Ottoman sultans and their sons are now open to the public.
• Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam: Cankurtaran Mahallesi Bab-i-Hümayaun Caddesi l, Sultanahmet Square (phone: +90 212 517 3535) – A 16th-century Ayasofya Hürrem Sultan Hamam in Sultanahmet Square, designed for Suleiman the Magnificent’s scheming wife Roxelana. Experience acres of marble, running water echoing around stupendous domes, and a massage fit for a sultan.
• Blue Mosque: The seventeenth century Mosque is one of the few mosques in the world to boast six minarets. The Mosque boasts walls with iznik tiles, is home to the tomb of Sultan Ahmed and the building was designed by the architect Sedefkar Mehmed Aga. The name is derived from the blue tiles decorating its interior and which reflects the splendor of Islam. The Mosque is one of the most popular tourist attractions.
• Topkapi Palace: Sultanahmet (Phone: +90 212 512 0480, Call Turkey for cheap International rates with 011Now) – This was the administrative center during the late 1400s to the middle 1800s of the Ottoman Empire. The palace is located on the Seraglio Point between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul, providing a magnificent view of the Bosphorus. It consists of many smaller buildings built together and surrounded by four courts.
Watch Belly Dancing While Eating Excellent Turkish Dishes
You can enjoy traditional Turkish dishes while watching local performances and belly dancing at Sultana’s Dinner and 1001 Nights Show in Elmadag, Taksim, which is central Istanbul. Sultanahmet Koftecisi is a famous restaurant that makes Turkish meatballs, köfte, and is located in Sultanahmet. Istanbul offers many great restaurants, including:
• Hamdi Restaurant – Address: Rüstem Pasa Mh., Kalçin Sk No:17, Fatih, Turkey Phone:+90 212 528 0390
• Yesil Ev – Address: Cankurtaran Mh., Kabasakal Cd No:5, 34122 Istanbul, Turkey Phone:+90 212 517 6785
• Asitane – Address: Kariye Mh., Kariye Cami Sk No:6, 34240 Istanbul, Turkey Phone:+90 212 534 8414
• Haci Baba Restaurant – Address: Katip Çelebi Mh., Istiklal Ave No:49, 34440 Istanbul, Turkey Phone:+90 212 244 1886
• Maiden’s Tower – Address: Üsküdar Salacak Mevkii, 34668 Üsküdar, Istanbul, Turkey Phone:+90 216 342 4747
• Dubb Indian Restaurant Café – Address: Alemdar Mh., Incili Çvs. Sk No:10, Fatih, Turkey Phone:+90 212 513 7308
• Feriye Lokantasi – Address: Yildiz Mh., Çiragan Cd No:40, Besiktas, Turkey Phone:+90 212 227 2216
Turks like eating meat and almost all zeytin yagli dishes are cooked with meat.
Delicious Turkish dishes include:
• Karniyarik — Fried eggplants with a minced meat, onion, parsley, garlic and tomato filling.
• Lahmacun — A pizza like dish with a topping of finely minced meat and onions with spices
• Kurufasulye — Beans cooked with or without meat or even with dried spiced thin slices of beef called pastirma.
Masterpieces of the Turkish cuisine include:
Kebabs — Kebabs is the common name for a dish where meat is coated around a skewer and grilled over a charcoal fire.
Döner –A dish of beaten pieces of meat seasoned with suet, local herbs and spices, skewered on a spit and grilled vertically.
Köfte — it is commonly referred to as meatballs. The köfte basics are ground meat (usually lamb or mutton) mixed with crumbled bread, minced onions and spices. The most common dish is Izgara Köfte, where the meat mixture is grilled and served with grilled green peppers, chopped parsley, crumbled dried red peppers and rice or bread on the side.
Manti –This dish is almost like dumplings and contains two main ingredients: the dough and the filling.
Corba is a popular soup dish in Turkey and some Turks enjoy eating it for breakfast. Popular choices are lentil or tomato soup, but you can also try tripe, sheep brain or tongue soup.
If you are traveling to Turkey on a budget, you will quickly learn about Lahmacun and Pide. These two types of food are the equivalent to a pizza. The base is thinner than a pizza’s base and the choices of toppings are amazing. A popular choice is cheese and onion or finely minced meat with peppers, onions and tomatoes.
Popular Hostels in Istanbul
If you are backpacking in Istanbul, it is a good idea to stay over in the Sultanahmet area. Sultanahmet can be seen as the centre of the city and most of the monuments and attractions are only a breath away. Sleeping on the rooftops provides a great view of the city and is a cheap alternative to sleeping in the dormitories. Popular hostels in Istanbul include:
• Bahaus Guesthouse: Akbiyik Cadessi Bayramfirin Sokak No 11, Sultanahmet
• Cheers Hostel: Alemdar Mahallesi, Zeynep Sultan Camii Sokak No 21
• Agora Hostel and Guesthouse: Akbiyik cad (street) Amiral Tafdil sk. no.6 Sultanahmet / Istanbul
• Big Apple Hostel Istanbul: Akbiyik Caddesi Bayramfirin Sok no:12 Sultanahmet
• La Casa di Maria Pia: Yeni Carsi cad. 37 Beyoglu
• Marmara Guesthouse: 15 / 2 Sultanahmet Akbiyik Caddesi Terbiyik Sokak
• Istanbul Hostel: 35 Kutlu Gun Sokak Sultanahmet
• Metropolis Hostel: Akbiyik cad. Terbiyik sok. No:24 Sultanahmet
• Istanbul Harmony Hostel: Hoca Pasa Mah.Hudavendigar Cad .no26
• Bada Bing Hostel Istanbul: Kemeralti Caddesi, Arapoglan, Serce Sokagi no 6 Karakoy, Beyoglu
• Hotel Nehrin: Kucukayasofya Caddesi Gelinlik Sokak No:8
• Chambers of the Boheme: Kucukparmakkapi sokak No 23 Beyoglu
• Med Cezir Hotel: Tevkifhane sokak No 6 Sultanahmet
• Saruhan Hotel: Kucuk Ayasofya Mahallesi Cinci Meydani Sokak No:34 Sultanahmet
• Portus Istanbul: Mumhane Cad, 31 Kemankes Mah. Karakoy
• Second Home Hostel: Hocapasa Mahallesi Ebusuud Sokak no : 23
• World House Istanbul: galip dede cad no:85 Beyoglu
• Orient Youth Hostel: Yeni Akbiyik Cd. No.13 34400 Sultanahmet
• Arch-Ist Hostel: Siraselviler Caddesi, no:40 Beyoglu
• Rapunzel: Bereketzade Mah. Bereketzade Camii sok. No:3 Galata ,Beyoglu, Istanbul
• Sultans Inn: Kucuk Ayasoyya Main Street, Mustafa Pasa Street, No:50, Sultanahmet
• Hotel Tashkonak: Kucukayasofya cad.Tomurcuk Sk.5 Sultanahmet 34400
• Tulip Guest House: Cankurtaran mah. Akbiyik Cad. Terbiyik sok. No:15/
• Hotel Evsen: Hocapasa Mah. Ibnikemal Cad. No:19 Sirkeci
Most planes arrive at Istanbul Atatürk Airport approximately twenty kilometers west of the city centre. Depending on exact nationality, foreigners may need to purchase tourist visas which are available upon arrival or online prior to arrival. All visas obtained at arrival must be paid in cash or by Visa/MasterCard.